For the first time ever, Thunder Bay will show its pride.
Ellen Chambers Picard has already forced the Lakehead District School Board to provide one of Ontario’s most comprehensive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender programs to make schools inclusive, safe and welcoming to all students.
Now she’s spearheading the first annual Thunder Bay Pride week, June 6 to 12.
Helping her plan the event is co-organizer Rachel Mishenene, a two-spirited elementary teacher with the public school board. Mishenene says she was driven to fight for gay rights after the horrific gaybashing of Jake Raynard, a young artist who was attacked by a group of thugs outside a gay-friendly Thunder Bay bar on Sept 5, 2009.
“I was also inspired by the rash of suicides this year, gay kids who were bullied so bad they took their own life,” says Mishenene, who is the social justice and equity chair of the Lincoln Elementary Teachers’ Federation.
“I am a single mom and my child is my greatest supporter. He was the one who encouraged me to come out of the closet. Living in that closet for years was one of the most difficult things.
“Once I knew I had support I flew out of that closet and came out to everyone I know in a matter of days.”
In December, Picard and Mishenene organized the first meeting for Thunder Pride. A delegation is going to Thunder Bay City Hall on Feb 14 to have the week officially dedicated by council.
“It’s already been approved that the pride flag be raised,” she says. “I’m so excited. This is huge for Thunder Bay. I get to go home now and share this with my son, and he can’t wait for the event.
“The kids in our community need this. They need to see they are not alone and that there’s people in the community that care about them.”